Out of My Mind

The Musings of a Woman Who Thinks Too Much

Nelle Engoron

Nelle Engoron
May 01
You can email me at "nengoron@gmaildotcom" & follow @NelleEngoron on Twitter. My archived radio shows on last season's Mad Men are available (for free!) at: www.blogtalkradio.com/madmentalk **My "Mad Men" commentary for Season 5 is on Salon rather than here -- go to http://www.salon.com/writer/ nelle_engoron/ to find all my Salon articles. **My book, "Mad Men Unmasked: Decoding Season 4," is available on Amazon in both e-book and print versions.** I'm a writer/editor/consultant who lives in the SF Bay Area. I write about all kinds of things, but am particularly intrigued by movies, relationships, gender issues, belief systems and "Mad Men." (Scroll down left sidebar for links to a selection of my blog posts.) I'm working on a novel and a memoir, neither of which is about Mad Men!

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Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 13, 2010 7:22AM

The Summer Man: Mad Men, Season 4, Episode 8 (Commentary)

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Is this the way you want to spend this time? Crying? ~ Greg

I wouldn't tolerate that if I were you. ~ Don 


In the very first episode of the series, “the boys” (aka the junior male staff of Sterling Cooper) asserted that their chauvinistic behavior was necessary, because it told the female sex “what kind of woman they should be.”  In “The Summer Man,” Peggy, Joan and Betty all grapple with that question, each coming up with very different answers, answers that reflect a historical divide in women’s behavior that opened up in the 60’s and widened to a chasm in the 70’s and beyond. 

For much of the series, Joan has been presented as stronger and more capable than Peggy in many ways, especially in how she handles men.  Peggy has at times looked to Joan as a potential role model in that realm, while ultimately always finding that Joan’s style doesn’t suit her.  Coming into her own both personally and professionally and showing more ease and confidence in her relationships than we’ve ever seen, in this episode Peggy makes a clear further break from old models of womanhood, although not without a helpful kick in the skirt from Don.


Watch out fellas, the fun’s over. ~ Joey

Faced with relentless “hostile environment” sexual harassment, Peggy has done what many women did before such behavior was legally prohibited (and those legal prohibitions were enforced – one did not follow the other directly) – she ignores and avoids it as much as possible rather than addressing it directly.  But in this episode, the behavior of “the boys” becomes so egregious that she can no longer stay silent. While Joan is the ostensible target of their vulgar speculations and Joey’s pornographic drawing, Peggy is the one who is daily subjected to their relentless sexual dialogue, which she rightly describes as “disrespectful” to them both (a lady-like understatement) when she goes to Don to complain. She expects Don to straighten them out, but he refuses, saying this will only make her into a tattletale. “You want some respect, go out there and get it for yourself,” he admonishes, dismissing her, but not before giving her the authority to fire Joey.

Peggy is initially inclined to show leniency, asking Joey simply to apologize to Joan.  But having earlier offered up the classic harasser/abuser’s defense of “I’m not doing anything, Joan’s doing it,” when Peggy has warned him about his trashy sexual talk, he remains clueless even after the axe falls. “C’mon, it’s funny,” he argues before sealing his fate with, “That’s why I don’t like working with women. You have no sense of humor.”  After Peggy relieves him of the pain of working with her gender, he confidently suggests, “Let’s see what Don thinks,” leading her to deliver the final blow, the one to his ego:  “Don doesn’t even know who you are.” 

Later in the elevator, a pleased-looking Peggy asks if Joan’s heard that Joey was fired, but the platter of gratitude she was expecting to be served turns into a bunch of sour grapes. “I’d already handled it,” Joan icily informs her, criticizing Peggy’s actions as a way to advance herself while undermining Joan by suggesting she needs a protector. “You wanted to be a big shot,” she tells Peggy, before laying down the cold hard truth of the era (and, well, ours).  “But no matter how powerful we get around here, all they have to do is draw another cartoon.”  She finishes with the acid observation that Peggy has harmed them both: “All you’ve proved is that I’m a meaningless secretary and you’re another humorless bitch.”

But how did Joan “handle” the situation?  In the first encounter, she talks to Joey privately and calls him arrogant only to be subjected to the horrific comeback that she does nothing but walk around the office looking like she is waiting to get raped (all the more horrific since we know Joan was raped at the office) and that she dresses like a madam in a whorehouse – comments which silence her.  In the second encounter, when she confronts the crew of boys about the obscene drawing, she tells them that she’s looking forward to them all being in Vietnam the next year and that when they’re dying, it won’t be for her because she never liked them.

While masked in Joan’s exquisite calm delivery that sounds so adult, this response can only be termed adolescent (at best).  I’d say it reminded me of an upset kid telling a playmate, “I want my ball back,” but that would risk Stan rising from the ether to tell his big balls joke. Staying silent in the face of rape comments and saying, “I never liked you” when humiliated is no defense or deterrent against harassment.  The boys see Joan as a schoolmarm who “hands out demerits” and Joey compares her to his mother, saying every office has a Joan who tries to tell everyone else what to do.  Joan is a joke to them in more than just the sexual sense, and she does nothing to change her status or their opinion of her. 

I started with exact change. ~ Peggy  

And she exacts change. By contrast, Peggy takes the assertive course of firing Joey, to which he responds with, “Well, I was wrong about you.”  By acting in a business-like and authoritative way, Peggy has changed her status and how she will be seen in the future.  Joan argues against Peggy’s approach saying if she’d wanted Joey fired, she could have arranged to have Mr. Kreutzer of Sugarberry Ham get him axed, missing the point that having men do your power work for you (and working behind the scenes to make that happen) is the old model of womanhood that leaves women powerless to do otherwise.  Don gives Peggy power behind closed doors which she acts on publicly; Joan believes in the opposite model of being the powerful woman behind the man while appearing publicly in a limited and traditionally feminine role. 

She blames Peggy for consigning her to “meaningless secretary” status but she's the one who’s failed to do more than scold the men in the office. Stuck dealing with petty gripes about the vending machine, she tells people to call the complaint line and “have an adult deal with the problem,” and snipes at people who walk through her office but doesn’t demand one that’s not a thoroughfare (in contrast to Peggy boldly asking Roger for Freddy’s office).  As intimidating as she is to the secretarial pool, as adept as she is as handling men sexually and socially, and as capable as she is with firm logistics, Joan seems unable to establish real authority with the younger men in the office, a clear signal that her style of womanhood is fast becoming obsolete. Even at home, she’s now a far cry from the take-charge woman we’ve seen before, weeping and acting submissive with Greg, who brushes aside her lack of sexual interest by telling her to imagine she’s having an illicit nooner at a hotel – a strange suggestion from a man who once was so threatened by her sexual past of just such encounters that he raped her. And of course that brings up the most distressing choice of Joan’s – to stay with and marry a man who did that to her, and now to be bereft at the thought of him leaving her, because she has no other friends.

It’s a very brave person who does something anonymously. ~ Joan



Saturday far enough into the future? ~ Don

Not normally but you’re in luck. ~ Faye 

Not leaving the women to do all the hard work, Don considers what kind of man he wants to be while plunging into the pool as well as into new habits of mind and body.  One answer to his question should have been obvious all along: He wants to be a blogger!

Feeling ashamed that up till now he’s been a mere proto-Twitterer (never writing anything longer than 250 words), he starts a journal. This startling new development takes us into the sanctum sanctorum of the series, namely Don’s thoughts and feelings. Up to this point, these have been doled out in the emotional equivalent of tweets, spare bits of dialogue that give us glimpses of his psyche, which is treated as more precious than his secret life history. It turns out that the great mystery of Mad Men isn’t “Who is Don Draper?" but “Who is Dick Whitman?” Forget his background and how he became an advertising wiz.  What’s inside this guy? 

Fantastically enough, one of the first things we learn about him is that he wants to develop a “modicum of control” over his emotions – which sounds like Lady Gaga wanting to be more adventurous with her wardrobe. Don’s all about the control, even when he’s angry.  Those surface tempests are deceiving – his real feelings are always locked away, even from himself, a layer or two or three below what he reveals. Anger, after all, is generally a covering emotion.  We’re angry for a reason -- usually because we are afraid, because something we don’t want is happening, or something we do want isn’t – or even because something we do want is.  As George Bernard Shaw put it, “The second greatest tragedy is to lose your heart’s desire.  The greatest is to gain it.”

So, what does Don’s heart desire?  To begin with, not to be the man he’s been waking up as.  That means waking up in a different way, by drastically cutting back on his drinking (to a seeming maintenance dose), starting to swim because it clears his head (not for work, but for “something”) and makes him feel weightless. Having been burdened with secrets, lies, ambition and fury for much of the series, Don begins to become, if not buoyant, at least capable of keeping his head above water and swimming a straight line. He literally gets his breath back, finding that physical inspiration without which life ceases.

And while he’s always been a Zen master of advertising, who knew he had the makings of a real writer in him, with his trenchant observations about his daily existence (even when he fears that it makes him sound like a little girl prattling about his day) that flow seamlessly into insights into the human condition.  In the most extended and poignant of these internal monologues, we watch as Don collects the boxes of possessions that Henry has insisted he finally remove from the garage.  Picking up the boxes sadly marked “Draper” (why not “Don”?) that have been kicked to the curb, he notices Henry mowing the lawn while refusing to look at him, and we find out that Don may feel more kinship with his fellow Betty-husband than we’d guess:

When a man walks into a room, he brings his whole life with him. He has a million reasons for being anywhere. Just ask him. If you listen, he’ll tell you how he got there. How he forgot where he was going and then he woke up. If you listen, he’ll tell you about the time he thought he was an angel and dreamt of being perfect. And then he’ll smile with wisdom, content that he realized the world isn’t perfect.

At this point, we see Don throw his boxes in a dumpster, discarding his old life, the façade that’s been Don Draper, even if he has to keep the name. After a brief shot of Henry icing out Betty while she ices Gene’s birthday cake, we see Don dressing for a date and hear the clincher:

 We’re flawed because we want so much more. We’re ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had.

Don is not engaging in simple regret at the end of his marriage and the loss of his daily life with his children. He’s putting his finger on the essence of the human condition, which is to always want what’s right around the corner, whether receding or coming towards us. We wish for what we once had, yes, and for what we still hope to find, but we also wish for what we have even as it’s right before us.

Choosing to “be here now” (as Ram Dass urged people in a famous book of the era), Don goes on a date with Faye, having decided that the time is finally right – something she agrees with.  After learning that her father is slightly mobbed up, and in Faye’s words, “a handsome two-bit gangster like you,” he chooses to measure out his intimacy as carefully as he does his drinks. Passionately kissing her in the back of a taxi, he nevertheless demurs at her offer to go home with him, saying that what they’re doing is as “far as I can go right now.” 

Earlier in the episode on a different date, Bethany used the back of a taxi for some of the “intense prolonged contact” that she spoke of needing from Don, while completely failing to advance their intimacy. Don dismissively tells his journal that he already knows her, before swiftly moving on to a fantasy of all the women in the Barbizon stroking themselves to sleep, making it clear that the similarly named and appearing Bethany could only be another Betty to him, unable to hold his interest intellectually or emotionally and thus prevent infidelity.

Having observed them on their date, Betty snidely tells Francine that Bethany is “all of 15,” an exaggeration that nevertheless seems true when Bethany’s behavior is put alongside that of the mature and assured Faye, who recounts a fable by Aesop in which the wind fails in a contest with the sun to convince a traveler to take his coat off.  Fierce blowing by the wind only makes the man pull his coat tighter around him, while he chooses to remove it when the sun slowly warms him.  Like Anna, Faye knows how to gentle Don, skittish horse that he is (not unlike the one that killed his father), her soft tones and sharp intellect combining to make her challenging but also accessible. She blends the traits of the other women without seeming an obvious type, or a perfect character (that ugly conversation with her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend that Don overhears reassuring both him and us that she’s not without flaws, while also showing she can stand up for herself). 

“And the moral is?” Don inquires after hearing the fable. “Kindness, gentleness and persuasion win where force fails,” Faye replies, thus defining the terms of relationship that she will accept.

Don takes the rather forceful step of showing up for baby Gene’s second birthday party, bearing a huge stuffed elephant, that totem of memory which was also referenced last week by a drunken Don, who said of the Samsonite brainstorming that he and Peggy did, “Every time we get into this, we abandon the toughness idea. Maybe there’s something to the elephant.”

Maybe there is something to the elephant, to memories. Maybe our pasts are not to be forgotten or hidden but remembered and embraced, and maybe real toughness comes not from obscuring but embracing what we fear are our deepest weaknesses.  Betty has angrily told Francine that Don doesn’t get to have “this family” and his new life, too, and yet he seems on the verge of that– a melded world in which he can dandle his infant son while developing a compelling new life in parallel. Realizing that he actually likes sleeping alone, likes the space in which he can stretch out like a skydiver, the cool spots that are his alone, Don reminds himself that he should appreciate it rather than making it one more thing he had that he’ll wish to get back later. Standing outside his athletic club, we hear the inimitable strains of “Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” but in fact, Don’s learning how to get precisely that, from acts as simple as a vigorous swim or the smell of summer in the air.

“We have everything,” Betty says smilingly to Henry, who seems fooled by her apparently accepting her new life at last. But the wistful look she gives Don and Gene tells us that she’s feeling the opposite, that she still thinks she has nothing that she truly wants, while at the same time Don isn’t the “sad bastard” that neighbor Carleton thinks he is.  “That’s an act,” she bitterly retorts, without knowing she’s both right and horribly wrong. Her former husband has been acting a part for as long as she’s known him, but now that he’s finally becoming himself, she can’t recognize it, for the simple reason that she’s too caught up in her own act.

“Be careful,” her friend Francine tries to warn her. “Don has nothing to lose and you have everything.” Like Betty, Francine is both right and wrong.  It’s nothing that Don has lost – the nothingness of his false existence – while Betty has only the appearance of having everything and in fact, has nothing, because she’s incapable of being present in her own life, or with the people in it. 

“People tell you who they are but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be," Don observes.  When he told Betty who he really was, she had to reject him because he’d destroyed her fantasy of the perfect man she’d wanted him to be. Betty’s not just incapable of facing facts about people; she’s incapable of facing faces. The simple sight of Don’s date (who is in fact stunned and intimidated by Betty’s beauty) sends her reeling into the women’s room, dropping both her purse and her façade since no one can see her, hiding away and shakily smoking.

Betty’s the one who can’t get no satisfaction – not in the traditional role of wife and mother, no matter whether she’s the wife of the sexy, dangerous man or of the safe, responsible one.  She tells Henry she’s had one husband who tried to control her and doesn’t want another, and that she’s tired of always having to defend herself. But the defenses are her own, against her feelings and desires, as well as against realizing what would be required of her to act on them. Like Joan, Betty’s operating from an outdated model of womanhood that’s dying around her.

In trying to claim everything for herself – the house, the kids, the moral high ground, the right to happiness -- Betty’s losing it all, including her chance to know herself. Don tosses away the detritus of his past, embraces the present and finds himself happily in the arms of both his child and a woman who may truly want to know him rather than cling to a fantasy that can only disappoint.  The episode begins with Blankenship describing her cataract surgery, “It was a nightmare. The ether and blindness and then I got the goggles. I tell ya, I was blind and now I see.”  Both Don and Betty have been anesthetized and blinded, numbed and restricted, by personal trauma and social conditioning, but so far, only one of them has gone under the pain of the knife and come out with the goggles.


To be continued. ~ Bethany

I bet she was thinking of that line all night. ~ Don, not writing about a certain blogger (although he could have been)


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The spammer beat me but other than that -- first! I liked this episode because it dealt with women's issues at its core. Don's finding himself is similar to what the women are going through. As always thanks for your insight and analysis.
It's nice to see Don doming out the other side and sad to see Betty sinking further into the abyss. Earlier comments this season referred to her as looking matronly and Pat Nixonesque. It would seem, that like Pat Nixon, she is on track to be wearing a hard and bitter mask - one of the sixties moms whose kids grew up and got as far away from her as possible and stayed away. Although many dislike her character, I would miss January Jones masterful rendition of this woman were she to be written out of the series.

The irony of the Peggy/Joan brilliantly illustrates the damned if you do/don't position that women like Peggy were in. Joan would have been pleased if a Roger or Don took "the boys" to task for their behavior but cannot acknowledge or celebrate Peggy's being given the power to do so and or her willingness to act on it. Like many of the men, Joan relegates herself to obsolescence with her inability to see where Peggy is going and get on the train.
Excellent as usual -- but this is still a kind of double occasion: you not only made it to big Salon -- head to head with HH; but you posted there before they could get it up here. Cool.
Thanks again for working so hard and fast to get this out to those of us who eagerly await your posts.
This was a fresh breeze of an episode to clear the air: the light coming back into Don's apartment, the cool sheets, the cleansing water, the smell of "corn," back to country true origins.
The angle of the camera on the drinks was interesting. We sometimes didn't know who was pouring the drink, and we often saw the drinks through Don's new awareness by the camera's positioning. Interesting how he had a beer at home rather than the harder stuff, and two glasses of wine, not a bottle, with Faye.
It was fascinating to compare the women --Joan and Peggy, Bethany and Faye and Betty. The maneuvering within a man's world, where in the end, the ones with strength and intellect will grow and the others, even if beautiful, not so much.
I do remember that time and how it felt to be a smart, intimidated woman -- I was Peggy's exact age, and I identify with her more and more.
I will say that in the early 60s around my neck of the woods, blow jobs were more rare than today's kids could possibly imagine, so focusing on them twice in an episode might have been a misjudgment or maybe not. Bethany going down in a taxi would be really something, really forward. And the cartoon would have been exceptionally lurid back then. We (some) may have done the act, but we didn't allude to it or admit it.
Very comprehensive. allow me though to add that even Ms Fay(e) desired Don - offering herself up to his apartment. I found his demurring interesting. Other people still need don more than he needs them. Perhaps a hurdle he needs to overcome in his journey/ I agree, the growth of Peggy continues.

I thought "satisfaction" was an inspired choice of song - because after all, life is a journey, and satisfaction is simply a mirage.

About as good an episode as possible with no Roger.

I found the Henry/Betty scenes dull, discordant wit the rest of the episode.
Nelle, I really look forward to reading your take each week. Nice work, as always. Exact change, indeed. The things you pick up...
What a change of pace this episode was! And yet, (nearly) as masterful as last week in its own way, particularly on the Peggy/Joan dichotomy. It felt good to watch Don's life begin to arc back upward, but somehow it felt a little rushed? Can a man really pull himself out of an alcoholic death spiral by the sheer force of his own will? Let's hope so, anyway. Love the skydiver position Don sleeps in. Reminds me of the shape of his falling body in the intro? Yes, he is still falling but a skydiver takes the leap willingly and enjoys the ride. He is embracing it. Don reclaims responsibility for his life. Loved the final scene, for what it said about where Don is, where Betty and Henry are, and the kids too. Thanks Nelle!
"When I'm watching my TV,
and a man comes on to tell me just how white my shirts should be.
And he can't be a man
'cause he doesn't smoke the same cigarettes as me"

"Statisfaction is THE song in my memory of the summer of 1965, and even then I vaguely understood that the Stones were riffing on a Madison Avenue created society. What a great opening for last night's Mad Men.

Nelle, you certainly laid it out about women's changing roles, and I can only add some observations. For the first time last night, I had the thought unless Joan makes some significant changes, she may be heading for a Marilyn Monroe-type ending. Last night underscored her extreme isolation; she has no women friends (she never thought she needed them before); in being the dutiful wife, there are no men swooning over her, and if she has any idea how smart she is, that's still not very important to her.

Betty, on the other hand, is completely stunted emotionally. She clearly doesn't know what she wants and still has no desire to know who she is. There was a time when I thought Betty might have potential for emotional growth, but now I'm just waiting for her to not only be hiding her afternoon drinking but to be taking tranquilizers on the sly.

And Peggy will have a rough row to hoe, but it looks like even with a few stumbles, she's capable of rising to most occasions. I'd like to see her hang out with the Life Magazine chick again; she could use some fun in her life.

My experience with the 1965 workforce was only summer jobs, so I had no idea of sexual politics in the workplace. But I did think that the Joey character was a little over the top in his exchange with Joan -- if only because he is so young and such an obvious underling at SCDP -- or maybe he's just really pathological.

And what's with Harry Crane trying to become a casting director?

As always thanks for your great commentary. I'm already fearing both Mad Men and Nelle withdrawal -- can there really be only 5 episodes left?
Jarring and more writerly episode but love your analysis, Nelle, and everyone's comments (other than the spammer's. Do people really think you'll buy their products when they spam or are the products a lie too?)

Especially liked the line about Lady Gaga! And Lea, I tend to agree with you about how times were. It's hard to watch this show at times because it rings so many of those bells. And I'm talking about decades later, as well.

In the late 80's, a group of us women used to hide from the CFO who was always trying to touch us, give us back rubs...the thought that we could have complained to anyone other than each other seems like a possibility now, but not at all then.

Oh, and losing one's job for refusing to sleep with the boss? Two jobs for me in the 70s, a time when I was so naive it was hard to believe what was happening. Lots of memories, though.

Interesting shot of don holding gene in the air. Great for Don but Gene didn't seem to know who he was or relate to him particularly.
This was an episode examining the status of womanhood in 1965, Perhaps disturbingly, it also mirrors what is happening to women in 2010, what with the whole "hotness" craze thanks to rubbish like TMZ and "Hollywood Tuna" etc. It brings to the fore that while you may have power when you are 20 something and skinny and dewey, watch out when you turn thirty. The hideous comments Joey makes are no different than some of the venom one can find on any of today's blogs. So, Joan's /Betty's/Bethaney's choices of achieving success through their sexual appeal is fatal. This power exists for only an instant and it is so brutally subjective. Witness the "creative department boys'" and how unimpressed they are by Joan's sex appeal. Her look was of the late 50's, ripe, lush but very fragile and in danger of quickly becoming matronly. It did not hold up well with the onslaught of the Twiggys, Jane Shrimptons and Ursula Andresses that were becoming the new standard of "it girl". Don's quick dismissal of Bethaney as someone that he already knows and clearly is contemptuous of is indicative of how futile female reliance on their appeal is and always will be. Peggy is the object of envy here. Not Dr. Faye either. Her hissy fit on the phone is an indication that her professional image may just be a mask for something a lot darker and perhaps more dysfunctional than Don has ever encountered in a woman. Also, for someone who went about acting icy and unattainable, she is very quick to ask to jump into bed with him. The challenge is over for Don and in my opinion, he is already bored. Peggy is the one who remains classy, calm, level-headed and comes out as the ultimate protector of her sex. She eliminates the threat of Joey quickly, bloodlessly and admirably based strictly on her accomplishments and the unassailable position of power they have allowed her to achieve. They are indisputable, they will not age. An absolutely genius episode.
Awesome, the plot thinckens and I'm so glad this is ...
"to be continued"
Couldn't get my head around the Joan/Peggy interchange in the elevator, and like your take on it. Glad to see Don pull it out of the ditch, as I was worried it was going to take on a Days of Wine and Roses bent, which would have tanked the lead character.

Also like seeing a more productive, mentoring relationship going on with Peggy and Don. It's as if he stopped pussyfooting around and she realizes she's respected by him and does not take it personally. They established trust last episode in the night that was and now relationship can be one of the true mentor boss to a woman in that emerging world. That will be fun to see unfold.
You pretty much nailed this one.

The key moment was the final scene in the elevator between Joan and Peggy. Peggy fires Joey for insubordination -- a key fact. She asked him to apologize, and he attacked her. The underlying issue is what we would now refer to as a hostile work environment, but Joan almost gets it. It isn't power but authority. The distinction being power is inherent in the individual and authority is fundamentally institutional. Peggy simply tells Joey that he is fired -- no emotion and no manipulation. Joan doesn't get that Peggy's authority isn't a direct threat to her.

I wouldn't refer to Don's reduced drinking as a maintenance dose -- implying addiction, but simply more of a pre rehab view of excess being a "bad habit" which can be solved by simply cutting back. Perhaps a minor quibble with wording, but it is hard to not superimpose our current cultural view the rehab model on the past.

Great comment on 'be here now' since both Don and Faye seem to have absorbed certain elements of the 60's through the ether -- Faye, presumably partially from her training. And what did I say last week about Faye!
I continue to stick with my assumption that this season is a series of trilogies. This trilogy is showing Don Draper reborn and laying the foundations for his new life. In the final scene last week, we see Don fresh as a daisy the morning after a night of heavy drinking. His door wide open and ready for work.
Last week he cemented a new, closer and more respectful professional relationship with Peggy. This week he delegated the firing of an employee to Peggy, which enhances her status in the office. It is the first step toward enabling Don to hand off much of the day-to-day supervisory functions to her, which frees him up to do more ambitious things in the executive suites.
Last night, Don finally achieved closure or acceptance with his divorce, as did Betty and Henry. Don is not an alcoholic, per se, but rather he is a guy that has been drinking way too much since the divorce. The difference is that he can will himself into slowing down once he decides to quit feeling sorry for himself. He has realized this is threatening the thing most dear to him, his career as Don Draper. Scaling back the drinking is relatively easy for Don because he has other things to do.
Last night’s episode was also a study of Don’s relationships with several different women and simultaneously of study of Peggy’s search to find her place in a new America. To Don’s credit, he delegated the firing to Peggy, just as he would done with a man. He simply treated her as if she was a man, while acknowledging that this will enhance her status in the office. Peggy must decide whether to go down the path assigned to Joan or take the path Faye’s path. Miss Blankenship (who is becoming a wonderful factotum for this season) is a reminder of where Joan’s path ends.
Don has been waffling between New York Barbie (Betty) and Betty 2.0 (Brittany). He chooses Faye. And Faye chooses him. Apparently, her father had pulled himself up from his bootstraps just as Don has. Betty thinks that is a bad thing in Don. Faye thinks it is a good thing. But she holds out to get Don on her terms. She wants his coat, and she gets it. Then and only then, she offers herself up to Don.
So how does this trilogy end? It seems as though Don will consolidate his base by forging a relationship with either Lane, Joan or both. Then he will address the rest of the executive suite. Listening to Don write in his journal stands in stark contrast to Roger blathering his book notes into a tape recorder. Bert might as well be wallpaper. By the end of this season, Don will morph from being the de facto head of SCDP to the official head.
One more thing: the segment with the Rolling Stones "Satisfaction" was absolutely brilliant. Here are the lyrics:

When I'm watchin' my TV
and that man comes on to tell me
how white my shirts can be.
Well he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smoke
the same cigarrettes as me.
I can't get no, oh no no no.
Hey hey hey, that's what I say.

I can't get no satisfaction,
I can't get no girl with action.
'Cause I try and I try and I try and I try.
I can't get no, I can't get no.

Every line in the songcorresponded exactly with what was happening in frame. The cut to middle class African-American couple seemed like a distraction on first viewing. On the second viewing, the cut to them was exactly when the song broke to "I can't get no" and cut back to them again with the chorus. I assume that is a shout out from Weiner that yes he will get around to race relations. Just perfect.
I wait eagerly for your posts and the comments as soon as I finish watching MadMen. Your insights and descriptions are spot on.

The booze shots were amazing. That brown liquid elixir is so potent and its power over people is amazing. I'm thinking the advertising world had more of it than say, a banking company because they were creative people. Being creative in that era was not the acceptable job choice. Reminds me of all the pot in creative jobs in the next era. I'm so curious about our future. Hopefully pot and booze will both be out in the open and we can deal with their power honestly. No use hiding it all. Mad Men is doing a great job exposing the hidden scenes that warp everyone.

I see myself in all the women. I am curious about the future character development. Is it my imagination or is Joan getting fat? That voluptuous figure is something I had in those days and it turned lumpy. Ha. She was such a fire cracker in those first years. And I think Betty has gotten thinner! Her neck veins pop out and her face has a gaunt haunted look. At the beginning of the series she was rounder and more of a mom. Now she has given everything away and stands there beside her politician husband as hollow as a reed.

Thank you again for your post!!
Nelle, I am not sure if you wrote this intentionally or not, but I couldn't understand the symbolic significance of the scenes of Don swimming being shot the way they were - i.e. the long shots of the lane with Don swimming toward us and at other times, swimming away...but it seems you were right on about wanting what's right around the corner "whether receding or coming toward us". If we understand the swim lap as a metaphor for life and our desires, then it is often hard to see where things, truly, end and begin, but at the same time, the end of one thing leads to the beginning of another (as with Don's marraige, the Don Draper identity, etc). Where Don is not sure if he wants to connect to people at all early in the episode, his tempered intimacy with Faye evidences not only his desire but his ability to do so, that may lead him from the end of his marraige to the beginning of a new relationship and beyond. Further and most poignantly, raising his baby son in his arms above his head, evidences the cyclical nature of the connectedness they share, which like the lap swim in the pool, is never lost, but unending and unbroken in its "present", natural state.

Nelle, once again, thank you for your brilliant mind. Whether I am right or wrong, you help me sort through my thoughts, which is worth far more.
Mad Men is pedestrian, poorly acted and a real downer. If I want to watch 1960's Madison Avenue advertising men I much rather watch Darrin Stevens and Larry Tate on reruns of Bewitched!
Great analysis as always, Nelle! I will never know how you manage to turn this around as quickly as you do; I can't even imagine how you could achieve this level of interaction without multiple viewings of an episode!

Just a couple of quick questions for all--I wondered if it might have been a bit anachronistic for Joey to say to Peggy: "Message received." Not sure when/where that phrase originated; just felt a little contemporary to me.

Also--did anyone attach any significance to there being no music over the closing credits? Have we seen that before?
july, I particularly enjoyed your comment as well. This episode truly shows how Matthew Weinder really understands women -- and amidst all the issues going on for women in the 60s, the universal one of aging and all that it implies, is front and center with the rest. What happens when women, previously young and attractive, become the mothers and matrons pushed out by younger, more nubile versions of themselves. This is what we see happening in an unflattering way to Joan and Betty. The accompanying struggle, the loss of a sense of self, the lack of identity that comes with being a women who has relied on her looks and who is now losing them. But this is is a common tale. Peggy has always relied on more than sexual/physical appeal. She relies on her mind and increasingly her authority in her interactions with men, and perhaps unwittingly, as we see this week with Joan, with other women. Her decisions may be unpopular, but they are groundbreaking and progressive. She (women like her) endured the hassle so that we do not have to (or at least to a mercilessly lesser degree). For this reason, Peggy is one of the true heroes of the show. And perhaps this is what MW is trying to tell us - that women ultimately win out and get ahead by using the more enduring assets in their heads and not on the rest of their bodies. True power lies therein. Faye's source of intrigue - and separation from other women - is what she offers Don mentally, not sexually - and I agree, I do think that her offering herself to Don in this way, replacing her body with her mind, may just be her fatal flaw in terms of this relationship. And watching shows like TMZ, which provide commentary on culture as they create it, it is sad to see so many women "regress" in a sense...to value only their sexual appeal, to compete with it, to degrade themselves and other women using it. Shows like Mad Men, characters like Peggy Olsen, and even Joan and Betty, remind us why it's critical we do not do so.
Fantastic Nelle, so good.
I love the tension building between Peggy and Joan- we all know where this is heading. Joan will start looking up to Peggy and learning from her, probably after the traumatic shock of her husband's demise.
And has anyone noticed the juxtaposition of the show's creator, Matt Weiner who was born on June 29, 1965, and baby Gene, who was 'born' the week before (June 21?) in 1963?
Baby Gene's 2nd birthday embodies the inception of Matt's existence (the astrological sign of Cancer rules memory).
Mad Men, like any great and timeless work of art, can be interpreted through so many different lenses.
BTW I'm certain that Sal is on his way back.
I disagree with you commentary of the Joan/Peggy situation. All Joan has to do is walk into the room and the men sexualize her--Peggy does not have that body. She was not raped in the office, she was not made the target of the rape comment or the drawing. So I think it was her situation to handle not Peggy's. I would have been mad at another woman too if they did that for me. I think the encounter between Joan and Peggy was more personal that just being about office politics. Joan had lost her agency with Joey--and potentially could have been raped again by him--and Peggy instead of supporting her to get her agency back, took it away from her again.

I do agree though that Joan plays too much of the man' s game--trying to attack their egos, using the behind the scenes methods to get things done.
A couple of things:

The elephant in the room IS the elephant in the room (Don).

Don's swimming is, I think, a direct reference to the John Cheever story and Burt Lancaster film about a man who swims through the suburbs.

They got the whole push/pull of women's behaviors absolutely right in the exchange between Peggy and Joan. Less than 15 years later, sexual harrassment and nasty jokes, while not so overt, perhaps, were still going on in the office I worked in (an established magazine) and the women still felt confused and helpless if they didn't have the power to do anything about it.
First, an apology. There was so much to write about in this episode and by 4 AM, I was getting punchy trying to finish and didn't have the clear head and energy I needed to edit this as I would have liked to do before needing to get it posted and go to bed. So it came out overly long, and I also didn't get to put in as many quotes as I usually do, including forgetting to put in a header quote at all (I've made up for that by adding two!) plus of course skimming over or not discussing some elements of the episode, and leaving out some telling details I wanted to include. I may make up for that by doing some tweaking of this write-up later today, but no worries, nothing major.

Thanks as always for your insightful comments! You all see things I don't -- including literally. I don't talk much about the visuals of the series, because I'm more a word/idea/emotion person but they were quite striking in this episode, including that shot after Don takes a drink in the office meeting, copying I believe a technique that Hitchcock and his cinematographer invented for the bell tower scene in Vertigo, which has been copied many times since. I also loved Don floating downward in the pool and the overhead shots of him in sky diver mode in bed. I agree with those who say that it evokes the falling in the title sequence, except that he's not falling -- he's safe, held up by the bed, and resting. And perhaps coming to rest at last.

Dorinda, thanks! And yes, I thought that it was interesting to juxtapose the "women's issues" with Don's self-exploration. But then finding one's self was a big part of the era, and far from limited to women.

Teresa, I agree that January is playing a horribly unlikable character just brilliantly. And I admire the courage of that -- few actors have it these days. And few American TV shows or movies permit such a character (think of how even amoral killers like Tony Soprano are made rather charming and lovable). And yes, the "damned if you do" phrase came to mind for me about Peggy, too. But I think that we'll see that her act has positive, not negative, consequences, at least for her.

Steven, thanks! but as noted above, I hit Post before getting this as polished as I would like! But sleep called.

Lea, all great observations! It definitely did feel like fresh air is coming in, and it's interesting how many lines referred to smell. And I also noticed that there was a lot of ambiguous camerawork on the drinks. It became suspenseful whether Don was drinking and if so, how much. (K commented that that Budweiser he was drinking at home hardly counted as alcohol - to Don, that's soda pop!) We felt the intense awareness of alcohol that he himself is feeling. I agree about the BJ's -- and this is the 2nd episode this season where we've seen Don receive one from a regular woman (not a pro). It seems a little anachronistic to me, too, and I didn't believe that a girl like Bethany would do that in the back of a cab, especially after playing hard-to-get for months. Although she did seem intimidated on seeing Betty, so maybe felt she had to, uh, up the ante to maintain Don's interest. (Fail!)

Brian, I find Henry and Betty far less compelling as well but in a dramatically valid way. That is, I think we're meant to feel the dull stifledness of their existence. Betty's traded the drama and uncertainty of being with Don for a boring stability. We're meant to feel a bit bored, too.

JLin, I confess I felt Don's recovery rather easy and convenient, too. Even though he's maintenance dosing himself with alcohol (thus avoiding the issues of withdrawal and detox, as well as full-on abstinence), he's consuming drastically less alcohol than before. And we're meant to believe it's all a result of clean living -- swimming and writing. Certainly many people have done that (I once heard actor Anthony Hopkins talk about going from being an alcoholic to having one of those "moments of clarity" that led him to quit drinking entirely one day and never start again) but it's far less common. But the way Don's alcoholism has been portrayed is not that it's an inherited familial tendency (which would presumably be harder to move on from) but a coping mechanism -- he's been self-medicating himself against the pain and shame of his deceptive existence and feelings of inadequacy. As he becomes more authentically himself (even if he's still using a false name), the need to do so lessens. I think they want to avoid doing any kind of cliched recovery story for him, and Don would not be one to go the normal recovery route or join AA, being a self-made man who believes in doing things on your own. So it's plausible, but I hope they don't make it all go away too easily as it seems unrealistic.

Adele, thanks! and not only is "Satisfaction" the song of that year, I always think of it as THE song of the 60's (and it's been voted the greatest rock song of all time, no surprise). It sums up so much about that era, crystallizing what the younger generation felt, what they were rejecting in society, how they didn't want to be their parents, etc. I also think Joan is starting to look very outdated. She's been portrayed as the woman in touch with culture in NY, always knowing where people should eat, shop, etc. But she's started to look quite dated in her attitudes and her appearance. I'm starting to see her like some women I knew in clerical roles who calcified at a certain moment of time, the point at which their careers stopped going anywhere, who kept wearing the same hairstyles and fashions. I don't think she'll do a Marilyn, but I think like Don with his drinking, she's heading to some sort of crisis that will change her. Greg's death is a safe bet, but who knows? As for Harry, I'm starting to wonder where his Hollywood stuff is going, too. I did wonder if Joey would end up taking his idea and becoming an actor and then come back to somehow haunt the agency as a celebrity (either that they see on TV or want to use for an endorsement).

Lorrie, thanks! Wow, what a history you had. And yet I know it was not that uncommon - -I've written about experiencing harassment, too, although not to the extent you did. And yes, it stayed that way until some time in the late 80's - early 90's, when some key harassment suits were won and got companies to get serious about dealing with it. It's hard to believe now that we thought that was just the way things had to be for so long.

July, very interesting comments! including the comparison of "the boys" and their behavior with online insults and harassment today. Very true (it's amazing how quickly the sexual insults come out online when the writer is a woman). As noted above, I agree that Joan is starting to look quite dated, and you explain well why that's so -- the turn in the 60's towards more boyish-looking models of womanhood (sadly, we know where that has led us). I find your take on Faye fascinating. I haven't seen her that way at all, but like Don, she's an enigma, and so we wait to see who she really is (after all she makes a living drawing other people out, rather than revealing herself). I didn't see that phone call as a "hissy fit," though, but as a woman standing up for herself, which I found reassuring.

Scarlett, thanks!

Gwool, I also love to see Peggy and Don truly working together, and agree they've clearly moved to another stage of their relationship, with a deeper level of trust in every way.

Nick, I think Peggy is in fact a threat to Joan because her way of being is so different. Remember Peggy starts the series as "the new girl" -- that's who she is, the new woman of the era as women and their roles begin changing radically (and at an accelerating pace). Joan is very clearly the older model, who seems unlikely to adapt. That's why she and Roger are paired together (if no longer romantically, then at least thematically) and Don and Peggy are paired together. As for Faye, I confess that I really have been resisting the idea of her being with Don -- it seems rather predictable and I also was enjoying seeing a woman who was immune to his charms without being angry or hostile. As for the alcohol -- rehab and AA did exist in that era (and are referenced in the series) even if they're not the cliche they are now. And I stand by my assertion that Don is dosing himself at a low level to avoid withdrawal symptoms as well as the pain of total abstinence.

Tennessee, great insights as always! I loved your comment that Blankenship is who Joan could end up being -- Ida was after all that hot tamale "Queen of Perversions" back in the day. I also thought it was a wonderful observation you had that Don's journal writing contrasts with Roger blathering into his tape recorder. Roger's trying to describe himself while Don's trying to understand himself.

Zanelle, thanks! I worked at a major ad agency in the early 80's (See my "I was Peggy Olson" piece for more) and the account execs drank (mostly with clients), the creative dept smoked dope and the media dept did cocaine. And when I worked in that staid business of banking in the 80's, there was lots of drinking, including at lunch-time, as well as some coke use, although that was more discreet. I do think business is a lot more "sober" these days!

Roxy, thanks for taking a thought I had in embryonic form and gestating it into something fuller and far more insightful! I was registering the swimming but didn't get as far as you did with what it conveyed. I love how you describe it.
Burch, thanks! I do watch it twice in a row, while taking copious notes. And yes, I noticed the lack of music at the end as well, and wondered what it signified, but came up blank (no pun intended). Maybe they just spent all their music licensing budget getting "Satisfaction" for the episode?? heh.

Roxy, thanks for the further comment. I do think of Peggy as the "hero" of the series as well. (But then, I would think that, wouldn't I, since she's the character I identify with!)

Shelley, you really need to write that article about the astrological side of MM! And I do hope you're right that Sal will be back, even if only for an episode.

Movies, as I said above, while Joan is the ostensible target of the harassment, Peggy is actually most subjected to the lengthy sexual conversations that the guys have (Joan isn't present during those). She's being harassed with a hostile work environment and they also have made sexual comments directly to her many times in the past. She specifically tells Don that the drawing and other behavior is not only disrespectful to Joan but to her, too. Where she goes wrong is telling Joan that she was "defending" her. Joan is right to say Peggy was defending herself even if she gets the reason wrong -- she thinks Peggy's trying to elevate herself, while really Peggy just wants a better working environment. I didn't mention this in my write-up, but there was some wonderful acting by Elisabeth Moss in the scenes where she observes how Joan handles the situation -- they hold the camera on her face for quite some time as she watches Joan with a keen intensity I've never seen on her face before. She's utterly focused, watching how Joan handles this, as if she needs the information for her own survival. But then she sees that Joan's response doesn't work, as the problem goes on. Joan had the chance to handle it and failed. Peggy steps in and succeeds. What Joan doesn't get is that it wasn't all about her -- it was about Peggy, too, as well as all the other women in the office. Peggy was defending them all. Joan was thinking only of herself.

Lisa, I think you're right on both counts (elephant and swimming)!
I pre-apologize for my verbosity.

Once again, I feel a need to discuss the women’s clothing. I love this blog because Nelle gives us a broad summary of the episode and allows us to dig into the details of our choosing.

I stand by my assertion that the women are communicating with their clothing. One of the first things I learned out of school is to dress your part. If there are two people standing in front of me, one dressed in a suit and one dressed in coveralls with oil underneath their nails, I would much rather have the first do my taxes and the second to work on my car. Nothing personal.

Despite my love for her, I have to call out Joan. She dresses to get attention not to be taken seriously. She may be the smartest one in the room but she has typecast herself as (very very sorry) as the slutty secretary. As much as I loathe Joey, he was right.

Faye dresses like a professional. Even her date outfit was respectable. Since she dressed well, even if their date flopped, they could still face each other in the office without any loss of face. (Her ending may have complicated things a bit).

Peggy is still figuring it out. In the beginning, she dressed like a school girl and no one took her seriously because of it. She’s now dressing with more flair but still professional.

I loved the scene of Joan and Peggy in the elevator. Joan in that bright blue (very lovely color) that was low (ish) cut and the pen dangling on her chest. Peggy was in a dark blue high necked dress. Joan reamed Peggy for handling the problem. As was stated before, Joey may have only been harassing Joan but it was making a hostile environment for Peggy. So it wasn’t just Joan’s problem.

In the elevator, Joan reams Peggy. Joan is right that she lost face when Peggy handled it. But what she forgets (or never realizes) is that she was not handling the situation. She cut Joey off at the knees but he had her number and could spar with her. Joan took the complaint (unbelievingly) to the men to deal with. She tattled instead of handled. Peggy handled it. Period. Joan was angry that a woman handled it instead of the guys.

Don was right. The girls needed to handle it so that they would still be respected.

Finally, I absolutely loved the scene after Peggy fired Joey. He tried to get the guys to rally around him. And she pulled no punches - getting that other guy to be on the client. There was no doubt what had happened.
There was one thing I forgot to add -- I've wondered if Dr. Faye might be Jewish -- the last name could be (shades of Rachel Menken), but last night I was fairly sure that she is. When she was fighting with her boyfriend , she told him to go take a shit in the sea. That's a direct translation of a Yiddish expression, which I'm about to horribly misspell --gey cocken auf dem yam.
Kudos on another wonderfully written analysis.

A couple of observations. First, I found it telling Joan took the tack she did -- "There have been complaints..." -- when she likely could have found what she needed by being direct and private with the partners, just as Peggy did. Joan is a key component of that company, one of the first hired and all the names on the shingle know it. One has to suppose had she approached Don, and certainly Roger, and asked whether she had the power to fire Joey, it would have been granted. That character's passive aggression is just, well, sad.

Also remember Francine's quote to Betty wasn't that Don had merely "nothing" but that he had "nothing to lose." I wondered if Betty's acquiescence to Don's inclusion in Gene's birthday party (and the reinforcement of any parental bond) was partially to give Don more "to lose," giving her more power over him.
I'm just a newcomer as I only discovered Nelle's commentaries a few weeks ago, but once again, I'm delighted to read the wonderful perceptive insights here. Ditto for the readers's comments!
Just to add a few of my own observations:
Don swimming in the pool - I was struck by the notion of his "rebirth". He's stopped his irresponsible drinking, he's thinking and paying attention to his thoughts, consciously devoting time to writing down his insights and documenting his feelings. Instead of drinking so he isn't conscious of his thoughts, he's paying attention to them and swimming to "clear his head". He's not OUT of it, but devoting time to mental and physical discipline and redefining himself (again). He's floating in the pool, sleeping in a "skydiving" form on the bed, and his mind "floats" in the office ala the famous Vertigo shot (tracking+zoom).
Joan and Betty encounter in the elevator: well, Joan was top Hen, top of the pecking order and now she perceives Peggy to be usurping her position. Before, Joan was about as high as a woman could go in a company, and now Peggy is gaining power in a new way, plus she realized that Don is aiding Peggy, empowering her behind the scenes by giving her the authority to fire an underling -- and a male creative, not a mere female secretary! A terrible realization by Joan of her increasingly diminishing status in the work world, built on her looks and her involvement as Roger's favorite. As Roger's status is declining, so is Joan's beginning to diminish and her sexual power fades and becomes outmoded.
I was also struck by Don's senses awakening as he gets off the boozing, starts to swim and think consciously. The dinner scene with Faye when Don takes a sip of the chianti is the first time I remember him ever actually tasting and paying attention to the sensation of the drink. He usually just drinks to forget, get smashed, tune out, and his reaction is usually a wince at the taste of the booze. This time he tastes the wine, pays attention to his senses, and shares his reaction with Faye. I thought a big part of this episode was about Don PAYING ATTENTION, a very Sixties kind of thing to do. I was struck by the sunlight on the street when Don emerges from the athletic club and we hear the Rolling Stones song -- it reminded me of the sunlit California scenes where Don escapes and gets to be simply Dick Whitman. It seems again to be a rebirth and not just going back to being Dick Whitman, but maybe Don consciously invents himself anew as Don Draper+Dick Whitman.
And that last name Whitman -- what a perfect name for a man who starts out with nothing, but lives by his wits and creativity!
Nelle, I just googled an image of the actress who plays Don's secretary. She is really 63 and still attractive. I bet they do some sort of long shot flashback at some point when she was a hot tomato, otherwise they wouldn't be wigging her up in such an old disguise. Will be interesting to see.
Faye reminded me of Rachel Menken, albeit a more self-made street savvy type. She's the first woman who really seems a match for Don since Rachel and perhaps the very first to like him for who he really is. That "two-bit gangster" comment was definitely a compliment - plus she confessed information about her father that would put off a lot of people - but she obviously recognized something in Don that reminded her of her own father.
This was a great episode, quieter and less dramatic than the previous two shows, but with great depth and forward movement. Can't wait to see what happens in the 5 shows to come! I'm really glad that Betty's story is also moving along. There is something quite off about her new marriage, and I think Betty knows and regrets making the radical decision to trade Don for Henry. I think Henry married Betty for the image of perfection she embodied (which also attracted Don), but Henry is above all driven by ambition, and he no longer has patience for Betty's issues. Like many women of her time, she is a victim of "The Feminine Mystique".
First, the never ending thanks to Nelle (and all the insightful bloggers) for your observations

Second, thank you to all the women who are sharing their experiences with sexual harassment from "back in the day". I really appreciate the mature way in which you reminisce, without making it overly personal. It is very helpful for a male viewer to understand the nuances of the show from the female perspective.

I'm not sure I agree with the thought that Don and Henry are "comrades in arms" in any way. I think there is complete contempt from each direction. For Henry, there is the "be careful what you wish for angle", for he is now bitter over what he realizes he has "gotten". I think Don wished for Betty, but quickly realized she wasn't what he needed (much, as many of you observed, he may now realize more quickly with Bethany). Of course, there is that "small" issue with philandering as a way to deal with it .....

As for Don's drinking, I really don't think it is alcoholism at all (isn't that a disease, and not necessarily a manufactured afliction?). I don't think he was ever a heavy drinker until this season (especially by the standards of the day). I totally agree with that he was boozing to cope for much of this season. I would go further to say that it would be disingenuous for him to stop drinking totally. Time will tell.

One man's thought on Dr. Faye. I was thinking/hoping all along that she would be the answer to what he needs to fill his empty spot ... I think she has blown that by offering herself up to his apartment on their first date, especially given where he is trying to take himself. Again, time may prove me wrong.

Only five more episodes ... crap ... wish someone wouldn't have brought that up. LOL.
A couple quick responses;

We are missing the point about Peggy firing the guy. She was his supervisor. So it was always her responsibility to fire him. That is what Joan (and Peggy) just didn't get. So, basically Don kicked her in the butt and told her to do her job. Joan gets to fire women, but Peggy fired a MAN. That blew Joan's mind (and Peggy's0 (and the guy's).

I am glad someone else brought up Faye's probably Jewishness. In season 1, they had to do a company wide search to find a token Jew and finally found one in the mailroom. Ever since, Weiner has very quietly breking down that barrier - without high drama.
Late to the party (as usual), another great analysis. Congrats on the red Salon, though I think they should have flipped the placement of this week's recaps.
Your commentaries on Mad Men go straight to the heart of it - brava! Thank you for adding to my enjoyment of the series.
Here's a link to a great piece in USA Today about Randee Heller/Ida Blankenship:
Also, what of the last scene with Don in the pool and Joey (the fired guy) swimming in the next lane?
What's THAT going to be about?
Betty intrigues me because she is living out some really repressive stuff from the past that I hope Weiner shares with us. She is now married to:daddy" as opposed to "bad boy" Don, and appears to already regret it. Which daddy will rear Sally? Will she mimic Betty or go in the opposite direction? Sally manages a sad little smile and hand wave as Don approaches with the elephant gift for Gene, which tells me she isn't comfortable jumping up and giving him a big hug. Actually, Don doesn't show any emotion towards either Sally or Bobby, wonder why not?

Since Don owns the home in which Henry and Betty are living, why hasn't Henry moved his new family into a home he owns? I was amazed that Don agreed to get his boxes out of his own garage at Henry's insistence. Any thoughts on why Don didn't just give Henry a FY?
It seems as if the key pivot in the series that started with Betty confronting Don last season has reached fruition in these last two episodes, and we're now on "the other side." From here on in it's going to be a fascinating exercise in seeing who leaps forward with the times, evolving through self-awareness, and who becomes a dinosaur. I agree that the Joan/Peggy contrasts in this episode perfectly illustrate a changing of the guard. I fear that, despite her many talents, Joan will be consigned to the past unless something truly shatters her world -- her rapey husband getting killed in Vietnam, perhaps.

One big void for me in Mad Men is the near complete absence of a backstory for Joan. I often wonder about her family and younger experiences, and what the contributing factors were that made Joan "Joan." How much did spending her formative years against the backdrop of the Depression and then WWII inform who she is?

As another poster mentioned, I too got to thinking of Burt Lancanster in The Swimmer, and saw Gene's large toy as representing Don as the elephant in the room. This could be the start of an incredible metamorphasis and melding for Don/Dick.

Loved your analysis as always!
Great read-out of a fascinating episode. This is the first time I've really disliked Joan. She's not the "Cosmo Girl" feminist many of us imagined at all. When faced with male arrested adolescence she tries to push it aside -- rather than use the power she actually has and kick the crreps to the curb. Why? becuase at heart she doesn't really ebelieve in herself as a professional entity. She's in thrall to the status quo. That's why she married date-rapist. Interestingly he's become softer and ncier as the storyline progresses whereas Joan seems increasingly lost. Her turning on Peggy was a real slap in the face. Instead of thanking a "sister" -- as feminists would do only a few years later -- she smacks her down pegging her a mere careerist. t's Peggy who's best equipped to deal with the feminism-to-come, though no one would have imagined that at the start of the series.

Don, as usual, is a mass of contraditions. it's pretty clear that swimming relaxes him. And goodness knows he needs it instead of turning reflexively to the bottle.

Betty, meanwhile, appears to have come to her senses about dealing with Don -- after a massive meltdown that came close to scuttling her new marriage. She may well have learned ot "let go" of him after all.

You cannot imagine how many "Mad Men" fans want Sal to come back. But apparently there's bad blood between Weiner and Batt so it's not in the cards.
another great analysis of a masterpiece of an episode. i just keep wondering how they can get these so right, so consistently of the era, done with writing that practically sings. and then i get to read your recaps and savor the whole thing all over again including *your* writing. what a bonus.
If we talk about the negatives of the period, one of the worst is how children fared in divorce. To me, the Don/Betty divorce has the children in the worst possible position.

Don seems to have a clue, but has not been able so far to effectively act on it. For Betty, the kids are always subordinated to her more pressing concerns.

The final scene hints that finally there may be an opportunity for things to improve.

Francine's comment regarding "Betty having everything" struck me as right to the point. Betty has 3 healthy, attractive children, an upscale suburban life, etc.

The things that Betty doesn't have are either unattainable or unimportant -- what other people think and how her ex husband feels. Talk about Aesop -- the dog with a bone on a bridge, looking at his reflection.

And Faye wan't primarily talking about Don's jacket, but the issue on his mind -- his son's birthday. Don's approach to Betty is to be the Sun, not the Wind. Faye also says something about just doing it. (I should really watch the episode again) -- the be here now metaphor. Of course, Don is a master of bending reality, so it doesn't take much of a hint.
Just wanted to correct the Yiddish for "Go take a shit in the sea." I wasn't even close, but it's "Gai kaken oifen yam." (thanks to an online glossary of Yiddish phrases). My stepfather had an aunt, who loved to use that as a curse; I wasn't told what it meant until I was an adult.

Another thought on Harry -- the whole trying to cast people stuff is a way to make himself seem more important,what with his Hollywood connections.
Thanks yet again Nelle. I liked your take on Satisfaction, but aside from the chorus, part of the song mocks advertising. So you see Don lighting up while the lyrics play
"How white my shirts can be
But he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smoke
The same cigarettes as me"
Dunno if there was supposed to be any deeper meaning but the lyrics fit the scene and Satisfaction was THE record in the summer of 65.

I reckoned that Faye and Don would eventually hook up and I'm glad they're playing it slow. Wonder if Bethany will just fade away or if there's an explosive scene or two coming soon. I also wonder if Don will ever see that sharp-edged side of Faye. And he better be careful about trifling with someone who knows people who know people.

Interesting the way in which Peggy's and Joan's paths have cleaved. I'd always heard that women were the worst for putting other women down. This was widely accepted in the business world though in my time I didn't actually see much of it myself. But good to see Peggy still charting her own course and thanks to Don for such great advice. And thanks again to you Nelle.
One other thing I noticed. Don trashes all of his "Betty" stuff in some random dumpster.

Henry ran into the boxes as a really (dumb) passive aggressive way to get back at Don (hahahaha! I ran into your boxes!!! That will show you to go out on a date without first clearing it with your ex-wife!). But those things (the life represented by boxes) mean so little to Don that he doesn't even bother to take in his apartment and sort through them. In a way Don gets the last laugh.
Just finished watching the episode and read your fabulous insights into it. Your analysis enhances my viewing experience and it's so much fun to read others' comments, too.

My initial reaction to the pool scenes in this episode was to reflect on the metaphors of suburban pools in two works: "The Swimmer" by John Cheever, and then the scenes in the film, "The Graduate" -- Your thoughts? One of both of these must have served as inspiration.....
Someone asked the significance of Don seeing Joey in the pool and what it meant. I think Don knows and sees everyone and every thing, he knew he saw Joey, he recognized him in the pool. I think Peggy when Joey was going to go to the "men" in charge in the office, she took charge of the situation, telling Joey "Don doesn't know who you are" Joey believed it, further showing Peggy has arrived and now has the ability to take charge of things in the office. She will is no longer be viewed as one of the kids in the office.
Somehting has GOT to be done about this DAMNED ADVERTISING SPAM!!!!!
I'm not sure I agree that Don is knowingly dosing himself at a low level to avoid withdrawal. There was enormous social pressure to drink in those days. We're already seen Roger ridicule non-drinkers. Don may be trying to drink just enough not to draw attention to himself.
"I'm not sure I agree that Don is knowingly dosing himself at a low level to avoid withdrawal. There was enormous social pressure to drink in those days. We're already seen Roger ridicule non-drinkers. Don may be trying to drink just enough not to draw attention to himself."

Seajane, knowingly or not, he seems to be dosing himself with low levels (beer at home, and 1 finger of CC before the date with Faye) perhaps to forestall any withdrawal unpleasantness. Delerium Tremens was known from the late 1800s, and ascribed to celebs like Jack Kerouac by 1960. But even without the DTs, he would probably have felt cravings and wanted to take the edge off, in private and at work, after such heavy drinking for so long. The scene at work where he stared at drinks, then took a gulp of CC and withdrew into himself momentarily, was illustrative of the allure of booze, and also of his newfound desire to pay attention to its effect on him.
Re: Don's drinking mostly wine or beer, I've heard alcoholics talk about switching to beer and wine when they want to show they've cut back on their drinking. It's like beer and wine don't count as real alcohol. Maybe their alcohol content is lower? It's part of the denial syndrome.
late to the party, but just wanted to add my .02 after all the insightful review here....

The scene between Harry and Joey is definitely a harbinger of storyline to come. The rise of television's power in the marketplace has been heralded and Harry's efforts to pimp out Joey tells me we haven't seen the last of him.

Betty's preoccupation with Don on a date with her younger doppleganger reflects anger at being reminded, yet again, she can see no evidence of any anguish over his having 'lost' his life with her - quite the opposite! Betty jealously asserts Don "is living the life let me tell you"; she's equally emphatic when she promises aloud that 'he can't have that and his family too'. Betty has lost any sense of being the victor in this scenario. The divorce was her decision, but all is not turning out as she anticipated. Henry observes Don is taking up too much space in her life ('maybe in your heart') and suggests 'maybe we rushed into this'. Betty angrily reminds him she was 6 months gone when they met, and commands Henry to 'let me out' followed by her invitation to 'go back to wherever you were when I met you'. Don and Henry are in for a bumpy ride as Betty continues to unravel and in her thrashing about, she's going to impale one or both of them.

The watershed moment for me this week was Don instructing Peggy - refusing to play the role of male protector which, until this time in history was not only the norm, but the cultural expectation. He tells her his secret, 'if you want power, go get it yourself'. And she does. When Peggy's smugness bubbles over in the elevator, Joan takes umbrage and gives Peggy the benefit of her perspective (I give points to Joan here as nothing actually changes in the workplace for another 20 years and women are seen exactly as she says), but at this point, the paradigm shifts for both of them. Just like that.

I had wondered about Don's relative disinterest in baby Gene except for one inquiry in passing, but his competitive streak is in evidence as he races to touch the pool wall first. It's as though he'd given up on the idea of having this boy as his son, and he tells Faye, "He thinks that man's his father." Fay fires back, "All he knows of the world is what you show him", which may have been a catalyst for Don's forceful appearance at his house for his son's birthday (as you said). As he marks his territory, Betty seems oddly satisfied at the end of this scene.

I think Bethany's appearances are numbered as Don connects with his new found desire to rid himself of old and unproductive habits. He's not intrigued, he 'already knows her' and will quickly move on.

I loved seeing Don shed another layer of his past as he placed the boxes in the bin, making way for his future.

I can't wait to see you here next week Nelle!
and I'm really sorry I obviously missed a bracket on the italics HTML!! big oops!
I think this episode was one of the first in which we see Don consciously try to heal the problems that beset his life. He's always scurrying to the next pleasure, to the "smell of a new car" that drives one every forward into the future, but in this episode he seems to create a kind of routine and structure to his life that will better serve him. He knows what he wants: not to be alone, not to be powerless to control his emotions.
There is a lot going on in this episode that I think shows Don's adaptation, but here I just wanted to mention briefly an idea I had about the swimming.
The only other times we've seen Don in water is in the last few episodes of seasons 2. In California, Don swims in a pool with Joy as he contemplates starting his life over, and the next episode ends with Don walking out into the ocean, obstensibly to be cleansed by the greatness of nature. Despite the implications of his being healed there, we know Don returns pretty much the same person.
Perhaps I am stretching a bit here, but it seems to be that there is an intriguing contrast being drawn between Don in the ocean and Don swimming laps in the pool. The ocean is boundless, vast, and overpowering. Pools are controlled, small, manageable. Is Don learning to find structure in his life by creating limitations? He limits himself from sleeping with Faye. He limits his drinking. I feel that the constant pool shots are a visual metaphor of the ways Don is learning to regiment and improve his life by shrinking it down to a more manageable size.
Am I overreaching here?
Georgia, I loved your discussion of the clothing choices. For women, even more than men, the choice of clothing has been a critical part of how they are seen. Sad, but true, and it always helps to face the truth. Joan is avoiding that, in several ways.

Adele, very interesting! I wondered about that phrase, which I'd never heard before. It makes more sense as a translation from another language, as it doesn't quite work in English (compared to other vulgar wishes/curses).

Kevin, good point. I forgot to mention that -- I noticed as well that Joan made it general and not personal to her. I think that was because she didn't want to look like a victim or a complainer, but retain the power position of protecting others (those poor helpless other women). As for Francine, yes I quoted her correctly ("nothing to lose") and I still think there's the resonance of Betty seeing Don as nothing and as having nothing of value. But good point that she can up the ante with him by dangling rewards. I don't think that will work with Don, though, from what we've seen of how he responds to manipulation by others!

Quazi, wonderful observations about Don and Joan, and about the name "Whitman"! Agree that Don is waking up and paying attention, although I found his face after tasting the wine more ambiguous. Faye says it's delicious (or something like that) while Don says nothing and I thought I saw him finding it, well, sort of a weak substitute for the hard liquor he's used to drinking. But it's subtle and open to interpretation. I agree with your observations about Betty and Henry. It made me think of a line from Gone With the Wind when Scarlett's mousy second husband realizes he's made a mistake by choosing the beautiful exciting woman vs. the quieter one (I think he uses a bird metaphor). I think Henry was in thrall to Betty as a beautiful package and didn't consider what would be inside.

Lea, I've seen some articles about her and you're right, she's much younger looking in reality (especially her "look" and grooming). It would be a change-up for the show to go that far back in time in a flashback about the agency. Think they could morph in a young Robert Morse from "How to Succeed in Business"?

Understanding Don, thanks! (and thanks for the thanks) I don't mean to imply that Don and Henry like each other. More that I read it as Don speaking of not just himself but all men when he has that monologue while watching Henry mow the lawn as he picks up his boxes. I do think Don's aware that Henry is finding life with Betty is not a bed of roses, especially in her angry post-divorce state (remember Don told Anna when he became engaged that Betty was "so happy" and she seemed fairly so when the series started). I wonder about Faye being so "easy", too, especially after putting up a show of being hard to get. I think it would have been better for both of them if she'd stayed a bit more wary for longer.

Tennessee, I don't think it was Peggy's job to fire Joey. She's a copywriter and he's in the art dept. I thought Stan would have been his boss, and if not, then Don. Either that or she's been promoted to Asst Creative Director or some such title and we haven't been told it!

Readwillet, thanks!

Ruth, thanks!

Shelley, I didn't think that was Joey, but someone else said that, too. I thought it was about Don beating a younger guy after earlier getting breathless from swimming.

Upside, that was a bit odd. Don had previously confronted them about moving and missing the deadline to do so. And it seems clear Henry hasn't bought the house from Don given the snarky remarks Betty makes about him going back to living at a hotel or something when she and H. fight. A mystery.

Various, you hit on something that's really been bothering me, too -- the lack of back story on Joan. I think there's a lot of potential there, and I'm really wanting to see it start coming out. She's so highly controlled and hyper-competent, as well as having a fairly sexual past for a woman of that era - -it all adds up to a lot of questions.

David, I agree that Joan is at heart very traditional in a lot of ways, and that's her conflict with Peggy. At first blush, Joan seems more the "liberated" woman (within the times) while Peggy's the repressed Catholic girl, but it's playing out quite otherwise, isn't it? As for Betty, I don't think she's let go of Don at all -- I think she's just pretending to, for various possible reasons.

Femme, thanks!

Nick, I can't recall the exact quote either, but Faye says something about his son knowing only what Don tells or shows him. It's good advice. Don realizes he needs to be present to influence his youngest son.

Abra, thanks! It's actually been more my personal experience of women bonding together and supporting each other, but many women say they had the worst time at work with other women. I think in particular before the whole "sisterhood is powerful" feminist movement of the 60's and 70's, this kind of thing happened, with women fighting the wrong enemy.

Georgia, I also noticed that Henry's "revenge" wasn't very effective!

Nelly, others have mentioned those 2 movies/books and I think there's that resonance. To me, the scenes worked on their own rather than feeling derivative. It didn't strike me as jarring that Don decided to take up swimming - that was a common solo exercise then (before people tended to jog). And we all know that Don is a solo kind of guy. I don't see him taking up squash or handball!

Nina, as noted above, I didn't think that looked like Joey at all! I'll have to see if I can find anything definitive somewhere, but I thought that was just a random young guy that Don was comparing himself to, including in trying to get back to his younger self.

Stellaa, I don't think either gender has a patent on being direct. It's also cultural, too -- Americans tend to be very direct, while many other cultures are not.

Seajane, Glen (comment right after yours) explained it well. If Don quit drinking entirely after drinking so much for so long, he'd have some severe physical, mental and emotional symptoms. He's at best slowly withdrawing himself, and more likely trying to continue to be able to drink some, but more as a moderate social drinker, as that's easier in his profession (or you get ridiculed like Freddy now is).

Lorrie, yeah, it is lower but many alcoholics drink only beer or wine. It's dependency, not type or amount. But I think for Don , it's a way to pace his intake vs. cocktails.
Gabby, I also suspect we haven't seen the last of Joey, and think you're right that Harry's storyline is being used to note the rise of TV vs. the old media that the "elders" at SCDP are used to advertising (and culture) being focused on. I also am glad you mentioned Betty's line about Don "living the life, I can tell you" -- another great line with a double meaning. Don's actually now starting to live his life, while Betty is not. That's not her intended meaning, but on an emotional level, I think that's what she feels and is angry about.

Ryan, I think that's very astute. I think that interpretation makes a lot of sense. And it also redresses a frustration viewers felt about Don's "baptism" in the ocean, which didn't lead to the change that it seemed to herald. Grand change is very very difficult. Even incremental change of one's life and behavior is far harder than people tend to acknowledge, but at least it's far more possible. Don is now engaged in the art of the possible. That way lies happiness.
Nelle, can I have your brain? Your insights are amazing (as well those of most of the bloggers). I so anticipate every episode, but equally anticipate your review! I also admire how considerate and thoughtful you are in addressing each person’s comments.

My meager observations:
Does anyone else want to slap Don around when he doesn’t stand up for himself? I hate that he agrees to get his things out of the garage immediately to make room for Henry’s imaginary boat. Then Henry has the chutzpah to set the boxes out like the next day’s trash. Yes, I understand that Don is abandoning those boxes because they symbolize his former self and that he inwardly feels he deserves this treatment, but I hate that Henry feels he can walk all over Don. I am hoping Don has a plan to subtly get back at Henry for his pilfering. I recall Henry once telling Betty that he will ‘take care of her’ –odd how he is doing this living in a house that Don is paying for. Before they married, I would have thought he’d have more integrity than to do something like that. Now he is nothing but a weasel. During their ‘courtship,’ I guess he was using his political charm on Betty and it worked! I also think that Henry is shaking in his boots—that is part of the reason he is treating Don this way. I think he senses Betty’s unhappiness (is she ever happy?) and he feels she will run back to Don.

I didn’t think of this until I read your commentary and readers’ comments, but I thought about Faye’s fable: She is the sun, providing kindness, gentleness and persuasion. Bethany is the wind -- providing a blow job!

My take on Don swimming in the lane next to the young swimmer: I had the feeling that Don is competing with the swimmer—trying to keep up with youth. When becomes tired out at the finish, the younger swimmer has enough stamina to keep going. Ah youth! He realizes that the young will forge ahead with new ideas and may leave him behind despite his efforts.

Does anyone else notice Harry Crane’s appearance looking slightly off? He almost looks a bit plastic-like to me—especially in the first few episodes. He appears to be wearing some of Peggy’s old facial prosthetics! Anyone?

Last, my comments on Joan: Poor Joan…what a difference from her strong self in earlier seasons! As far as her mode of dress, it is possible that she cannot afford to buy the latest styles now that she has to live within her means. No more sugar daddies doting gifts and laying furs and the latest fashions at her feet! Like it or not, she may be stuck in a rut of her dated wardrobe.

Again, love love love this blog! I also thought it was insightful of you to make the analogy of Don’s journaling comparing it to modern-day blogging!

Keep ‘em coming!
Oops! A better word to describe Henry's presence in the Draper home would be 'squatting' instead of 'pilfering.' I should have said:
I am hoping Don has a plan to subtly get back at Henry for his squatting.
Just a note...Henry is now paying rent to Don...One more reason to feel the need to assert himself.
Don's paying rent? I don't remember that actually happening. I do remember him saying to Henry to either pay rent or move out, or something to that effect, but that was it.
Did anyone notice at the dinner scene, after Don explained to Betthany who those people were "my ex-wife and her husband".... then Betthany says "You're kidding! Her!??!" And then looks both incredulous and happy and starts eating her food.... why was Betthany so delighted with Betty????